War. Hurricanes. Earthquakes. All have made their mark on the majesty of this place and the psyche of its people.
Below the swaying palm trees are men and women struggling to survive. Nicaragua is the Western Hemisphere's most impoverished nation, second only to Haiti and the evidence is everywhere, from its crudely built homes to its littered gravel streets.
Yet there is hope. And we saw it today in Masaya.
There we met with executive members of CECAMPO, a multi-sector co-operative that represents the collective interests of 220 members, 43 per cent of whom are women.
The majority are farmers who grow a variety of fruits and vegetables, coffee, sesame seeds, rice and coffee. They also raise cattle, make handcrafts and clothing.
Formed in 1994 and supported by the Canadian Co-operative Association, CECAMPO helps to meet the financing, training, technical and marketing needs of six co-operatives in total.
President Bernardo Cardenal's face lights up when I asked him what impact this co-operative has had on its members and their families. "Our members are making improvements to their homes. We now have means of transportation. Our children are studying at universities. We have progress in the best possible way."
CECAMPO's success is a strong testament to the effectiveness of its efforts to reduce poverty using the co-op model.
On our way to the CECAMPO office I spoke to my fellow team member Betty Willemsen who had just completed her second church mission here in two years. "People asked me why I wanted to go back..that it was only a drop in the bucket. I told them "if you could just go there and see what a drop in the bucket does'."
I was reminded of her comment as I listened to Mr. Cardenal and his board proudly list the past accomplishments of their co-operative and their goals for the future.
"One of our missions is to improve the quality of life for our members. That's why we're here," he explains.
And that's why CCA is here.